Thursday, March 1, 2018

March Update: Valuable Lessons

Despite a few days of complete inability to write more than a hundred words on anything, I am very, very impressed with my progress in February. It was touch-and-go toward the end. I had to write like mad for a few days, but I got very close to my 15k word goal on book three. And wrote another two thousand words on a completely unrelated project. Go me!

I also managed to get Druid Wars off to beta readers. One of them read it straight through in six hours and told me it was phenomenal. So that's heartening. It also means that I spent a lot of last month researching agents for this book. As always, cart before horse, but in some ways it's good. Future Sara, when she's ready to submit, will be glad that groundwork has been laid. I even have a crappy draft of a query. And an even crappier draft of a synopsis. But. Progress!

My plan right now is to split March into editing Druid Wars and writing more on book three. With my writing goal only being 15k words, I should be able to do both. That way, by the end of March, I'll be ready to go full speed into (hopefully) finishing up book three in April. I'd really, really like to finish book three done in April. May at the latest. I kind of want to finish it during a Camp Nano, though, since this series began in a Camp Nano. There's a certain amount of poetry there.

Either way, I can do an in-depth line edit of Druid Wars in May so that by the end of May, hopefully, I can start querying. If all goes well and according to plan (although when does it ever?). I've got 35 agents lined up that I'll submit to in batches of seven. I haven't decided if that's seven a week or just seven at a time, sending one back out for every rejection I get. Either way, it shouldn't take more than five or six months to get all that out and back, which leaves me at the end of this year ready to try publishers for Druid Wars. I'll cross my fingers that Apex and/or Angry Robot does open subs again, but if not, I will do Tor, Daw, Red Adept, and maybe even Ant Colony (a new, local KC press that liked tweets for Druid Wars awhile back).

That'll take me through about this time next year, which is when I'll be working to get MystWatch ready to put out into the world myself. I am pretty sure which cover artist I'm going to use. I still haven't found an editor, but I still have time. I won't worry about that this year. It's cart before horse, as I so often do.

I have to remind myself that this month, all I need to do is write 15k words on book three and edit Druid Wars book one. That's all I have to focus on. Because if those two things do not get done, the rest of my five-year plan can't happen.

Although I will say that I sat down and calculated that if I were to write at least 5k words a month the rest of the year, book three would be done by the end of this year anyway. I'd like to write it faster than that, obviously, but that was a nice realization. It will get done this year. I can write that much on anything in a month. Even bad ones.

And I'm bound to have at least some good ones if history is any indication.

Although as I showed last month, a few bad days or even a bad week doesn't equal a bad month. I had only written about eight thousand words on book three when I got stuck. I hated everything I'd ever written. I couldn't even power through. That only resulted in a hundred words or so each day and me hating writing even more. Thankfully, my zombie apocalypse choose-your-own-adventure sparked my interested, so I worked on that for a couple days, which seemed to have recharged me.

I learned two pretty valuable lessons this month.

First, sometimes I just have to change projects. If I hadn't worked on Druid Wars and Suddenly, Zombies! I might not have found the creative energy to write as much on book three as I did. Other projects can recharge my creative batteries, so I should never feel bad about working on something else, even at the risk of not reaching a monthly project goal.

And second, I am not the type of writer who is going to write every day. I know that so many "real" writers tell you to sit down and knock your words out every day, like you go to work every day. And I can do that sometimes. NaNo, namely. But then I have to take a month or two off. On months that I take a few days off between big spurts of writing, I am able to more consistently write. Even September last year, by far my best non-NaNo month ever, I took a few days off here and there, and nearly a week at the end.

Sure, I could probably start publishing sooner, and make more money once I do, if I were to push myself to write more than 20k words a month. But honestly? I think I'd burn out so much faster if I didn't give myself time to breathe. Pushing harder on creative endeavors doesn't actually equate to more product. Besides, 20k a month for ten months a year equals 200k words. I'd say that's two books and some shorts, wouldn't you?

Right now, my goal is to get 15k words a month somewhat consistently. I can work my way up from there once I start actually publishing. It's going to vary month to month, especially if I get a lot of freelance work. Or we travel. Or I'm depressed (although I've managed my depression a lot better lately...that's no guarantee for future success). Or if I'm having a stellar month. Or a NaNo month. Or a massive rewriting of an old draft month (see Online Dating for Demons when that comes up later this year). I think, though, that taking all that into account, I could probably average 15k words a month.

Anyway. As always, TL;DR: my goal this month is to write another 15k words on book three (putting me at 80k words total) and to incorporate beta reader feedback into book one of Druid Wars. I may poke at my zombie book, too, if I get to feeling bored or tired. I may even write a Cafe story. The prompt interests me.

And my achievements last month were: getting Druid Wars off to beta readers, putting together an agent list and drafting a query for it, writing 14k words on book three, and poking at my choose-your-own-adventure novel.

I also put together a 10-year plan for my publishing career. It's equal parts terrifying and do-able. That's why I put so much stress on myself to meet my goals last month. I want to stay on pace so this amazing plan can actually work. It may not. I even toyed with the idea of pushing it all back a year to give myself some breathing room. I still might, but for now, I'm keeping it as-is. My long-term plans are always flexible.

I also found my quarter-hourglass I bought for NaNo a few years ago. Well, I found it awhile back, but I actually used it to push myself to write the last few days of February. There was a night my friends convinced me to commit to writing for 15 minutes before gaming the other day. I did about 20 minutes, writing 750 words. Not too shabby for a short little spurt! After trying this out with my quarter-hourglass a few nights, I discovered that if I think about what comes next in a scene and know where I'm going before starting a timer, I can write about two thousand words over three fifteen-minute sprints. It just takes some focus, a glass of whiskey, some bumping tunes, and my quarter-hourglass a few times. Seems to be a recipe to push through the "I don't wanna's" and get the words written.

We'll see how that works this month and if it continues to work for Camp NaNo next month. Even if I just do one sprint a day, that's progress. Good progress. So yeah. Days I need to write and can't seem to focus, that's what I'll do.

But I'll also give myself breaks some days, too. Breaks so I don't break. Breaks so it stays fun.

Because Jack reminded me that I don't have any contractual obligations at this point, so writing can still just be fun. It should be fun. These may be the precious few years it's still fun. I need to fully embrace that. I lose sight of that a lot of the time, but when I let go and stop pushing, writing is still magic for me.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

February Update: Always Shifting

The writing group I'm a part of has stopped doing monthly meetings. This is mostly a good thing, as it was the same 3-5 people saying the same things over and over. Mostly the meetings were to schedule things, and all of that now happens through the FB group. Overall, it's been nice having the first Sundays of the month back.

The one thing we're missing is the monthly accountability. Going around the room saying "hey, my accomplishments last month were these, and I hope to get this done this month." We've started doing a FB post for that, as well, but it doesn't feel quite the same.

That being said, I seem to have shifted to doing my writing blog updates closer to the beginning of the month the last few months. And while I thought it might be good to have a wrap-up of a month at the end of a month, I realize that these blog posts might be a nice way to bridge that gap.

So. At least for this month, I'll talk about what I did in January and what I hope to get done in February.

I'd planned on writing most of last month. All of that changed when an amazing dark sci-fi/fantasy magazine opened up submissions for novels and novellas in January. I'd already subbed to another publisher that had open submissions at the end of last year, so since I decided this has sort of become the year of publisher submissions, I'd throw my hat in the ring.

Trouble was, their word count limit was 120,000 words. Monsters of Lawrence was nearly 125,000. So, I spent January doing intensive edits on book one. It was fantastic. I cleaned up all of the clunky language that had made me cringe for years. I cut a lot of inside jokes from when I first wrote it nearly a decade ago. I fixed some of the lore that has evolved since writing another book and a half.

And at the end of January, I had a sleek, stunning, 119k-word novel. Even if it doesn't get picked up by the publisher, it was an overhaul it desperately needed. I hadn't done an intensive edit like that in about a year. It was going to have to happen to self-publish anyway. I am now ahead of the game (and with a much cleaner, tighter draft for when I sub to other publishers this year).

I've blocked out the rest of my year as far as publisher subs. I've got two more lined up, and then, I just may chuck it at one last one at the beginning of next year, depending on how everything else goes. Book three should be done by then. Written at least. Maybe ready for beta readers. I may decide at that point I do want to do it myself and not bother. Although on the other hand, I may send it just to say I did. It's the first time I've done any of this. I want the full experience from start to finish. I want to be able to say I did everything I could with it before either trunking or self-publishing.

At any rate. I didn't work on book three at all in January. That ended up working out, though. I got reacquainted with all my friends as I cleaned up book one, let the world sweep me up again. And while I was there, I figured out a lot of things I was getting hung up on with book three. And while there are still some issues, I've filled in some blanks and fixed some plot holes, so I'm ready to move forward.

Or I was, until I got the flu.

But I got better. And as of today, I've written about two thousand words on it, getting past the scene I was stuck on and figuring out what comes next.

My goal for the next 22 days is to write about 15,000 words. I'm excited about the things that are happening. I really love a few of the scenes I've written. I'm so excited to share this with my friends and family. I'm so excited to be done with it so I can read it!

Ideally I'll spend the next three months putting words toward it, finishing it up in May so I can spend the rest of the year doing edits. That being said, I may need a break before then. It took me most of last year to write 50,000 words on it. I fully anticipate getting stuck at some point.

But when that happens, I will probably go back to Druid Wars and get that off my plate. I haven't come up with the best way to fix the opening chapter yet, but the rest should be fairly easy to fix. For beta readers at least. It doesn't have to be perfect yet. Although I won't lie, the high praise I got on book two was nice. I'd love to be able to do that again.

And then I'll have to stare down Online Dating for Demons. But that's for Future Sara to worry about sometime closer to the end of this year.

Sally Prescott may not get any attention this year. Although I have figured out that the invention of the translating device dovetails nicely with her losing her wish at the end of the series. I haven't given up on her completely, but she's still rather back burner for now.

But that could change. My plans are always shifting. If I suddenly became unemployed, I might consider throwing season one out there just to make a few bucks. I could write an adventure a month if it suddenly became a way to make money. Hopefully it never comes to that. Sally deserves better.

Anyway! TL;DR: I spent January working on book one. I will spend February working on book three.

Here we go.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

January Update: 2017 Accomplishments and 2018 Goals

Here we are. Another year of my writing blog. I've made some amazing headway in the last seven years. Three more years to reach my ultimate goal--the goal I started this blog for. I feel like I'm on the right track. I just need to quit putting the cart before the horse and quit rushing. Slow and steady will get me to my goal. And the baby steps along the way make it all possible. My yearly goals are the key to that.

So, speaking of goals, for 2017, my goals were to do the following (I've added in parenthesis the degree of completion for each):

  • Write Scions of Mythos (wrote roughly half of the book)
  • Sell or self-publish Monsters of Lawrence (I queried it a lot, but didn't sell)
  • Send Towers of Kansas to beta readers and incorporate their edits (done)
  • Finish the first season of my adventure novellas (done)
  • Start the second season of my adventure novellas (done)
  • Write at least six stories for the Cafe and keep the Cafe running (done)
  • Edit Druid Wars Book 1 for beta readers (didn't finish, but made good progress)
  • Start writing Druid Wars Book 2 (have decided to put off writing second books in series until I get a book picked up)
  • Do dev edits for Online Dating for Demons (pushed this back a year)
  • Help run Reader Con in October (con was canceled, sad face)
  • Write a blog update every month, even if I have nothing to report (done!)

I had a lot of lofty goals, and while not all of them were 100% completed, I feel really, really good about where I'm at, especially since I battled depression most of last year. I mean, look at what I accomplished.

In 2017, I:
  • Finished editing Towers of Kansas (and sent it to my brother and sister to read)
  • Finished writing the first season of my adventure series
  • Started the second season of my adventure series
  • Did most of the edits on the first book in the Druid Wars series
  • Wrote over 10k words on a new project during NaNoWriMo
  • Wrote a flash fiction for the 24-hour writing contest
  • Wrote six stories for the Confabulator Cafe
  • Wrote over 50k words on Scions of Mythos
  • Won the story-in-a-bag contest at ConQuest
  • Brainstormed nine ideas for short stories and novels
  • Managed the Cafe so that it had at least four stories most months in 2017
  • Sent out 60 queries for book one (and got two partial requests)
  • Wrote blog posts every month this year
  • Beta read two novels for writing group friends
  • Overall, wrote 115,636 words on various projects and spent 101 hours editing
  • And in addition to all of that writing, I also had three different freelance editing clients, where I edited two novels, one novella, and three short stories in an anthology.

I learned a ton about querying and self-publishing. I've developed something of a system for editing, so now I almost enjoy the editing parts more than the writing parts. I completed a full year of tracking my writing and editing habits, so I have a more realistic idea of what I can do in a year. Which means I have a better plan going forward.

No more writing full series all at once. I'll finish up book three of MystWatch then self-publish it, but I need to write more first books and query those. When they get through the querying process with no luck, then I can focus on writing additional books for self-publication, but right now it is frustrating that my best book to date is the second book in a series. 

So I guess what that means is, I'd like to be able to write two books a year: one for querying, and one for self-publication. As long as they aren't massive 125k-word books like the MystWatch books, that should be do-able. I averaged around 115k words a year the last two years, which isn't quite two books, but once I start publishing, I'll buckle down and push that a bit. It's like doing a budget. You have to spend some time analyzing your spending before you can implement spending goals.

My goals aren't as lofty this year, but they're pretty serious. I need to get them done so I can stay on-track. I've been wishy-washy about these projects for awhile, but now it's time to buckle down and do them. And I have a whole year to do them without too many other projects as a distraction.

Here are my goals for 2018:
  • Finish writing Scions of Mythos
  • Send Druid Wars to beta readers, incorporate feedback, and hopefully start querying it this year
  • Edit Online Dating for Demons
  • Write at least four stories for the Confabulator Cafe (and keep it running)
  • Start a brand new project for Nanowrimo
  • Finish the first adventure in season two and start the second adventure for Sally Prescott
  • Volunteer at ConQuest
  • Write at least one blog post a month here.

Those goals are, notably, in order of importance, and the first three are the ones I absolutely must do. The others I will let slide if it comes down to it, but those three are the core of this year. Oh, except for the blog posts here. Those keep me accountable, keep me motivated, and keep me apprised of the big picture. Without the big picture, without looking back to see what I've accomplished on a small and on a large scale, the momentum would peter out and I'd be dead in the water. Even if I have nothing to report, it's still important for me to update this blog.

I also know I will be editing at least a few books from Bottle Cap Publishing. I'm not sure if I'll have any other freelance clients, but BCP should keep me plenty busy outside of my own work. And I will probably have beta reads from my writing group friends, which I always enjoy.

So that's it. Here's to a brand new year of writing, and another few steps closer to getting published.

What a journey it has been.